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UK gay teen killed himself after being ‘bullied to death’

An inquest has heard how a 14-year-old boy, who had made 20 reports of bullying to his school, bypassed settings on his computer to research suicide methods
Ayden Keenan-Olson, 14, committed suicide after being 'bullied to death'.

A British gay teen has killed himself after being ‘bullied to death’ at school, an inquest has heard.

Ayden Keenan-Olson, 14, chose to take his own life by swallowing an overdose of prescription pills.

He left two suicide notes saying how he could no longer cope with the homophobic and racist bullying he experienced at his school in Colchester, Essex.

The inquest held this week heard how father Tim Olson found him dead in his bed on 14 March.

Keenan-Olson had come out to his parents just before Christmas, three months before his death.

His mother Shy Keenan, who works as a child abuse campaigner, broke down in tears during the hearing.

As reported by The Telegraph, she said: ‘My job is to protect kids online but I could not keep my own son safe.’

Keenan added: ‘He said he was gay and had found somebody he thought he loved but it was not reciprocated. We didn't care, we just loved him whatever.

‘After Christmas it was like talking to a different boy – since he was able to say out loud to people that he was gay.’

She described her son as sensitive and had wanted to start his own anti-bullying campaign.

Keenan added how her son idolized gay TV presenter and human rights campaigner Gok Wan, but was suffering years of verbal and physical abuse from other pupils who often called him ‘Gok’.

Philip Morant School’s head teacher confirmed the teen had reported up to 20 incidents of bullying since joining the school in 2010.

A police investigation found, in the month leading up to his death, Keenan-Olson bypassed settings on his computer to research suicide methods.

He had tried to commit suicide six months prior to his death.

The coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded a verdict of suicide. She said it was not her job to attribute blame and made no finding regarding bullying or the school’s conduct.

But she did say the court ‘regrets’ the influence suicide sites have on young people.

Acting head teacher Robert James defended the school’s policies for how they dealt with the bullying.

‘As a school, our first priority is to make sure our students are safe,’ he said.

‘We very much share the coroner's concerns about the influence of suicide sites on impressionable young people.’

Keenan is now lobbying for a new law to safeguard children online.

She said: ‘We have to change the laws in this country to protect children.

‘We must remove suicide websites from the Internet – it's got to happen. We can't have young people taking their own lives whenever they face problems or difficulties.’

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The various policies/guideline are clearly not working and one-off campaigns might help reduce the problem but something more robust is needed.

There should be clear step by step procedures, utilising the hate crime reporting system: use the same reporting centres already in place but with a specific bullying report book. This would apply to ALL schools. Look something like this:
1. Report incident to hate crime reporting centre (of which there are usually many)
2. Copies go to head teacher, local police, Ofsted, copy for reporting centre, copy for person making complaint.
3. Police investigate, if appropriate action has not been taken by head and bullying stopped, police take appropriate action
4. If problem persists, put in bullying hate report every time something happens, as a repeat crime it should take higher priority.

The advantage of this is that the procedures and centres already exist, the only extra cost would be printing the extra bullying report books.

Many of the bullying incidents are hate crimes and should be dealt with as such. The only reason they are not dealt with by the Hate Crimes Reporting systems is because they occur in school.

This would be prevention 'up stream' I.e. It is likely that this would prevent hate crimes occurring by the same perpetrators later on.

Of course it would also mean that Ofsted have the evidence to take action as well!

Another possible advantage is that a third person can also report it, anonymously if needed - so a teacher who might be afraid of repercussions, a school nurse, another pupil, a parent, the young person themselves (if they are frightened of repercussions). It would, of course, need a big publicity campaign to ensure the public were aware of it.

My son, who was also gay, took his life 3 years ago at the age of 18. He, like this young man, also found the instructions on how to do this on a suicide site that encouraged him to kill himself and told him, "GOOD LUCK!!!". These sites need to be shut down. NOW.

Yet another precious young life lost to the cancer of bullying! And, yet again, those in authority refuse to accept and apportion responsibility!

Ayden made 20 reports of bullying to his teachers in the three years he was at the school. It would seem that they were all ignored. A sad indictment of the mentality that still pervades our education system. The legacy of Section 28 seems to be still casting its evil shadow. Most British schools refuse to accept that they have any bullying within their precincts, let alone bullying of such intensity that the victim can see only one way of escaping it. LEAs, Boards of Governors, Heads and teachers, rather than addressing the bullying instead choose to bury their collective heads in the sand. The sad thing is, that while they are proudly denying that bullying exists in their schools, children are being driven to despair and to suicide. It's high time that they grew a pair and admitted that they have a very long way to go before they can say, truthfully, that they don't have a problem.

The coroner should be ashamed of herself. She is another one who cannot see the wood for the trees. She blames Ayden's death on suicide sites on the internet. If this is a typical example of her findings as a coroner, then she should seriously consider stepping down. Shutting down websites will do absolutely NOTHING to stop children like Ayden from taking their own lives. The internet is not the reason that people like Ayden take their own lives. Abject despair is! She should have laid the blame for this firmly where it belonged, with the school. Once again, the bullies win and their victim takes the blame. If these kids weren't having their lives made a living hell every day at school, they would have no need to find suicide sites on the web. The main problem is the schools, not the internet, but the current trend among those in power is to blame it for all the ills of the world.

My heart goes out to Ayden's family. I sympathise deeply with their suffering. I know from experience what it is like to be bullied at school, and for it to be ignored. In my case it was because I was overweight and had red hair. I didn't suffer homophobia because I'd managed to bury that so deeply that nobody even suspected that I was gay.
Ayden was an incredibly brave young man, to come out when he did and I praise his parents for supporting him. It's such a tragedy that his school could not do the same. If they had, he may still be here today and one day may have made a huge difference to the world. Alas, we will now never know what he may have been capable of.